The key questions Matt Hancock must answer on Covid this week

The health secretary faces a grilling from MPs after Dominic Cummings’s explosive allegations. These are the biggest issues

Allies say Hancock sounded alarm over early lifting of restrictions

Did he mislead the prime minister over care homes?
In perhaps the most explosive allegation made during his seven hours of select committee evidence, Dominic Cummings said Hancock had assured Boris Johnson that all hospital patients heading back to care homes would be tested. He then said that, at a disputed meeting in May, the prime minister had demanded to know why this had not happened. Hancock has already denied these allegations and suggested that he only pledged to test all discharged hospital patients as soon as testing capacity allowed.

Did he interfere with the testing programme to meet his own targets?
Another key accusation from Cummings was that Hancock was telling officials to “down tools” on the test and trace system so that they could focus on meeting his target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April 2020. “It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm,” said Cummings. Hancock has said that building capacity was critical to achieving the ability to test, among others, returning care-home residents.

Was he too slow to react on PPE?
Cummings said he was astounded to find that Hancock’s department had accepted that crucial personal protective equipment would take time to arrive because they were still shipping it from China, rather than making use of aircraft grounded as a result of the collapse in international travel. He also said Hancock had falsely claimed PPE funding was blocked by the Treasury.

Did everyone who needed treatment get treatment?
Hancock said publicly that everyone who needed treatment for Covid would receive the care that they needed. That this happened has been disputed, with Cummings stating that people were left to die “in horrific circumstances”. The Cummings claim is that Hancock knew that not everyone had received the care they required, because he had been briefed to this effect internally.

Was Hancock complacent about having the right plan?
It has become clear that when Covid first emerged, the government thought its plans to deal with a flu pandemic would form the basis of its response, but the disease proved to behave very differently. Cummings said Hancock gave reassurances that plans were in place, stating: “We’ve got full plans up to and including pandemic levels regularly prepared and refreshed, CMOs [chief medical officers] and epidemiologists, we’re stress testing now, it’s our top-tier risk register.” Hancock has called all Cummings’s claims of dishonesty unsubstantiated and untrue.


Michael Savage

The GuardianTramp

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